Pixels

 

Pixels is based on a ridiculous premise but is executed surprisingly well.

Here’s the setup: One of those capsules filled with samples of our culture was sent into space in 1982. The capsule was recovered by aliens. They mistook the recording of kids playing video games to be an act of aggression. They respond by attacking earth by replicating classic games of the 80s. (I’ve been told that the TV show Futurama had an episode which presented a similar scenario.)

Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) was a talented gamer in the 80’s but now installs electronics systems. His childhood friend Cooper (Kevin James), who is now President of the United States, calls him to plan a response. No, you don’t need to reread the previous sentence: Kevin James plays the president.

Sandler and James’ characters are not as idiotic and obnoxious as the ones they usually portray. Not to say this is highbrow comedy.

Another childhood chum, Ludlow (Josh Gad), still as nerdy now as he ever was, jumps into the battle to help take down the aliens and their various game forms.

The aliens communicate with earth via a clever series of videos featuring 80s celebrities. Not unlike the hilarious Bad Lipreading videos that have become internet hits, the segments with 80s celebs (including Ronald Reagan, Mr. Rourke and Tattoo from Fantasy Island and Daryl Hall and John Oates, among others) tell our heroes where the next attacks will occur.

For the battle royale climax, another 80s gamer who helps the cause is Eddie (Peter Dinklage), now a prisoner, who trades his gaming skills for a presidential pardon and celebrity sexual favors.

One of Sam’s customers, Violet (Michelle Monaghan), turns out to be a military advisor who is deeply involved with the alien crisis. She’s also there to provide a romantic interest for Sam.

Pixels is perfect for the current generation of gamers, as well as for Gen-Xers who played Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga and other arcade favorites back in the day.

Pixels is silly, light amusement that provides some laughs and has many cool effects. I think it would be fun to pay for your admission with a pocket full of quarters—not unlike the coins you might carry to the arcade—but I’m not sure the kid in the ticket booth would appreciate the joke.

 

 

 

Blended

With movies, as with parties and dinners at restaurants, evaluations are influenced by expectations. Going in to Blended, I knew that Adam Sandler movies have been less than wonderful in recent years. On the other hand, Sandler and Drew Barrymore made two highly entertaining movies together, 1998’s The Wedding Singer and 2004’s 50 First Dates.

Happily, Blended conjures up the vibe of those two Adam-Drew films, rather than those of That’s My Boy, Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Jack and Jill, etc.

Not that Blended is an award-winner, but it is cute and funny. It’s a sweet love story whose outcome is pre-ordained. Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) are single parents. They have a terrible blind date—at Hooters—but meet again in a store where they help each other out. Through a strange and highly unlikely turn of events, they end up sharing a suite—with their kids—at a resort in South Africa.

They try to make the best of it. Jim, Lauren and all their kids enjoy the resort’s amusements including safaris, ostrich rides and parasailing—with comic results.

Here’s some parental guidance. Blended appears to be a comedy for the whole family, like Cheaper By The Dozen or Yours, Mine and Ours. But it is rated PG-13 and contains some naughty content you might find offensive for your preteens. Some of it will go right over their heads but other parts, such as a shot of humping hippos, are rather direct.

Also in the cast are Sandler’s SNL cohort Kevin Nealon as Eddy and Jessica Lowe as his trophy wife Ginger. Wendy McLendon-Covey of Bridesmaids plays Lauren’s business partner. Joel McHale is Lauren’s smarmy ex-husband. Shaquille O’Neal and Dan Patrick have brief appearances.

Blended is not as good as the earlier Sandler-Barrymore pairings, but it delivers some solid laughs and a happy outcome—and those are good things. It also contains situations most parents—single or married—can relate to.

Maybe the best thing Blended has going for it is the lines will likely be much shorter than those for X-Men and Godzilla.

 

 

 

That’s My Boy

Before I saw “That’s My Boy,” I asked a friend: “What was the last decent movie Adam Sandler made, ‘Fifty First Dates?’” That question, I am sad to report, is one that can still be asked.

Not that “That’s My Boy” doesn’t have some funny stuff. It does. But this is a bad movie with too much business going on. Could an editor have made the movie better by cutting out, say, 25% of the movie? Yes. That would make it 25% less painful.

Sandler plays a ne’er-do-well named Donnie who, as a high school kid, fathered a baby with a Mary Kay Letourneau type teacher. The teacher went to prison and Sandler’s character eventually got custody of the baby. He was a horrible father—so bad that the son changed his name when he grew up and cut off all connection.

After being notified by his attorney that he needs money to pay back taxes, Donnie sees his son’s photo in the paper. The son, played by Andy Samberg, is now wealthy and about to get married. Donnie crashes back into his son’s life and becomes a big part of the wedding weekend.

The movie is rife with crude, raunchy humor. The most uncouth character, of course, is Sandler’s Donnie.

Among the supporting cast are NY Jets coach Rex Ryan as Donnie’s attorney, sports anchor Dan Patrick as a Jerry Springer type talk show host, Tony Orlando as Samberg’s boss, Vanilla Ice as one of Donnie’s old friends, James Caan as a priest, Susan Sarandon as the modern day version of the teacher and SNL’s Will Forte as one of Samberg’s co-workers. Sandler takes a huge artistic risk with this movie by NOT including his buddy Rob Schneider in the cast.

There are scenes in the movie that are designed to shock and they do. Sadly, there are numerous elements in the movie that are designed to be funny and they are not. Too many misses in a movie that’s too long bring “That’s My Boy” down to D level. That’s “D,” as in, “don’t.”